May 28, 2010

With the many things which are transpiring in the land of Israel and among its people, the question most recurring is this, “Is the fig tree budding?” There are some interpreters today who go to great lengths and pains trying to prove that our Lord did not use the fig tree to symbolize the nation of Israel. I want first of all to establish from the Word of God that the fig tree is a symbol of Israel, and in the second place to establish the fact that the fig tree is budding.

The import of all this is to be found in the statement of our Lord that when the fig tree begins to bud, His coming draws nigh. In Matthew 24:32, the Lord says, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree…” The ASV gives it as, “Now from the fig tree learn her parable …” None other than the Lord Himself said that the fig tree is a parable; that is, the fig tree is used by Him to symbolize or portray something besides the tree.

A tree in Scripture is used by the Lord to symbolize a national power (see Judges 9:8-15; Daniel 4:10-16, 19-27; Matthew 13:31, 32). In Judges the nations symbolized by the trees seek to elect a king to rule over them. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire are symbolized by the great tree which is cut down for seven years. In Matthew 13, the mustard bush, a vegetable, becomes a tree, or a world power. We find two trees and a vine being used to symbolize Israel. In Isaiah 5:1-7, the Lord tells us that the grapevine symbolizes Israel. In Romans 11:17ff, the Lord tells us that the olive tree symbolizes Israel, and in Matthew 21:19; 24:21; Mark 11:12-14, 20, 21; Luke 13:6-9, the fig tree symbolizes Israel. In Judges 9:8, the trees of the forest sought the olive tree to reign over them. She refused. In the tenth verse they sought the fig tree to reign over them. She refused. In the twelfth verse they sought the grapevine to reign over them. She refused.

The olive tree symbolizes Israel in her covenant relationship to the Lord. The grapevine symbolizes the spiritual blessing Israel is to be to the whole world. The fig tree symbolizes Israel as God’s national witness to all the world. The vineyard was allowed to go to waste. Some of the branches of the olive tree have been cut off, but the fig tree itself was cut down.

Our Lord spoke three parables concerning the fig tree. Matthew 21:18-20 says: “Now in the morning as he returned into the city he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee hence forward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!” Herein the Lord turned aside to obtain some fruit to satisfy His hunger when He saw the fig tree in full leaf by the wayside. Finding no fruit upon the tree He said, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever.” The word translated “forever” has disturbed many Bible students by causing them to believe that the nation of Israel would never again bear fruit; but the Greek word is aion which simply means “the age.” When the Greek wishes to express “eternity” it uses the words which are translated “the age of the ages.” When this present age comes to a close and Israel is restored and recommissioned, she will bear fruit in the age which is to follow.

In Luke 13:6-9, we read:

“He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

When the Lord turns aside to the fig tree in full leaf to obtain fruit and finds none, He says, “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none.” That experience took place after three years of our Lord’s earthly ministry and sets forth the fact that during these three years He had sought some spiritual fruit from His own people in Israel and had found none. With the command to cut down the tree the vineyard keeper says to let it alone for another year, or give it another chance this year, and then if it does not bear fruit we will cut it down. The Lord agreed to so do, and we find, in reality, that He gave Israel another chance. In answer to the prayer of our Lord from Calvary’s Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” God gave Israel another chance on the Day of Pentecost. God gave them another chance when Peter preached his second sermon; and He gave them yet another chance by the preaching of Stephen. When Israel steadfastly refused to obey the Lord she was set aside and God allowed her to be scattered to the four points of the compass.

In Acts 1:8, we find that He chose another group to be His witnesses. In Romans 11:25, we find that the setting aside of Israel as expressed by her blindness is only in part and that it is temporary and not permanent. Romans 11:17 states conclusively that just SOME of the branches were cut off and not all. The Gentiles being grafted in AMONG the olive branches bear fruit only as the sap from the Jewish roots flows through the Jewish trunk out through them.

Back to Matthew 24:32, 33, our Lord says that one of the signs of His coming is the budding of the fig tree, and while her branch is yet tender and is just beginning to put forth leaves, you may know that He is near, even at the door. The fig tree budded May 14, 1948, when Israel became a nation. Israel was the 59th nation admitted to the United Nations and has been recognized by some 67 or 68 nations up to the present time (1953). In keeping with the symbolism of the budding of the fig tree we feel that the coming of the Lord is to be soon after Israel becomes a nation.

But one says, “In Luke 21:29-31, it speaks of the parable of the fig tree and ALL the trees.”

Yes, that statement but enforces that which we have been explaining: When Israel becomes a nation and when all the other nations symbolized by trees become very conscious of their national existence, then you know that the Kingdom draweth nigh. This simply means that when Israel becomes a nation all the other nations will begin to draw back from the desire to be one world and will want to be separate and distinct nations in the world. And that is exactly what is happening in the world today. Yes, the fig tree has budded and the coming of the Lord doth draw nigh. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”


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